7/7/2013 8:22 P.M. ET
Final Vote can send Delabar to All-Star Game
Fans have until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET to boost Blue Jays reliever
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
TORONTO -- If the Blue Jays are able to generate enough votes for right-hander Steve Delabar, then it is possible his career will take yet another unexpected turn.
Delabar is one of five American League candidates for the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com, which is a fan ballot to determine the final roster spot at this year's All-Star Game in New York.
Final Vote candidates
|P||Steve Delabar, TOR|
|P||David Robertson, NYY|
|P||Koji Uehara, BOS|
|P||Tanner Scheppers, TEX|
|P||Joaquin Benoit, DET|
|SS||Ian Desmond, WAS|
|1B||Freddie Freeman, ATL|
|1B||Adrian Gonzalez, LAD|
|OF||Hunter Pence, SF|
|OF||Yasiel Puig, LAD|
It was not that long ago that Delabar thought he would never pitch again, let alone in one of the game's marquee events. But that is the situation Delabar now faces as he goes up against Boston's Koji Uehara, the Yankees' David Robertson, Texas' Tanner Scheppers and Detroit's Joaquin Benoit.
"It would mean a lot," Delabar said Sunday of the possibility of being voted into the game. "Everybody that has kind of followed the story of me getting here and where I am now, it's kind of a long road. I don't want to say top it off, because I hope it's not the top of my career, but just one of those things you say, 'This is great.'
"It's unbelievable that I even got considered for the final spot. It's just an honor to even be mentioned with those other guys."
By now, most people are aware of Delabar's improbable journey to the Major Leagues. Three years ago, he was working as a substitute teacher in Kentucky while spending part of his time coaching baseball for local athletes.
Delabar had been a 29th-round Draft pick by the Padres in 2003, but seven years later that seemed like ancient history. His playing days appeared over after he fractured his right elbow while throwing a pitch for the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League.
The devastating injury required intense surgery, which involved a steel plate being inserted into Delabar's arm with nine screws. A return to baseball was the last thing on his mind, and he instead began taking courses at the University of Louisville to finish his teaching degree.
Delabar did not even consider playing competitively until he began working out at an academy called Players' Dugout in Elizabethtown, Ky. He was introduced to a weighted-ball program that was designed to increase shoulder strength and -- at least in theory -- help pitchers avoid injuries.
He participated in the program so he could better understand how to teach it to his athletes. Instead, Delabar not only regained all of his previous velocity, he started throwing harder than ever.
A Mariners scout was invited to watch him pitch, and shortly after that Delabar signed another professional contract, and his road back to the big leagues was well underway.
"If somebody asked me, if I told you you would be up for consideration three years ago, I would have laughed at them," Delabar said of the Final Vote. "You just go day by day and just work hard for the future and hope that all things play out. You never expect something like this to happen; you just kind of go about doing your job and hoping good things happen."
Delabar rejoined the professional ranks in 2011 and advanced through all three levels of the Minors before making his Major League debut later that year as a September callup. He broke camp with Seattle the following season, and it seemed as if Delabar had arrived for good. But that, too, would change.
The hard-throwing righty could not solidify a permanent spot on the Mariners' roster and was optioned to the Minor Leagues on three separate occasions. Delabar had overpowering stuff but had difficulty keeping the ball in the park, as evidenced by nine home runs allowed in just 36 2/3 innings of work.
Toronto was not deterred and decided to take a shot on him by working out a midseason trade that sent outfielder Eric Thames to the Mariners. The 29-year-old's results ever since have been nothing short of spectacular.
To finish out last season, Delabar posted a 3.38 ERA in 29 1/3 innings while becoming a trusted arm of former manager John Farrell. This year, the numbers have been even better. Delabar owns a sparkling 1.58 ERA while sharing the lead for most strikeouts by an American League reliever with 57 in 40 innings of work.
"It's definitely a long journey, but all of the time I've said I can't worry about what I've done; I have to worry about what I'm going to do," Delabar said. "If I get into the game, I have to worry about pitch by pitch and not worry about getting the third out already.
"I have to worry about getting the first guy, and then work from there. I try to focus on now and not so much what I've done. I'll look back on that in the future and kind of go, 'Wow, that was pretty cool.'"
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15 percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email Friday to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Delabar, simply text message A2 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text A2 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply.
Delabar's teammates are doing what they can to spread the word. Everyone on the 25-man roster was wearing "Vote Delabar" T-shirts prior to Sunday afternoon's game against the Twins. The third-year pitcher might face an uphill battle with fellow candidates like Uehara and Robertson pitching in big markets, but the word is spreading.
"Our whole team supports Delabar, and I think he's going to be chosen by the fans," Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki said through an interpreter. "It would be a great honor for him and for our entire team. He deserves it."